Building A Formal Rose Garden Part 1 (2024)

by Mitch Fitzgerald September 15, 2007

When you enter a public rose garden laid out in neat patterns, it can be a thing of beauty. Have you ever wondered what a rose garden like that would look like in your own garden?

It can be done given the time and space. Yes, you can have a stunning rose garden filled with all the glamour and wonder of the formal gardens with thoughtful planning and care. I will be leading you through the steps to build a simple circle garden. Once you have read the basics you can build your own garden based on what ever shapes or design elements you choose.

The rose garden here will not be a true formal rose garden since it will not have only roses. This is a garden for roses and a few other select garden plants. You can plant a wonderful “rose only” garden if you fill the companion plant spots with mini roses or just move the roses a little closer together. Both ways this will be a wonderful garden that you will enjoy for years to come.

1. Find the Space: The first step to building a great formal rose garden is to find the space. I would build it no less than 48 feet across. You can build smaller but 20 feet is the minimum for the formal look. Find your space and make it work for you. Move things around if need be but make it a space you can enjoy. This space needs to be in full sun as roses must have full sun to thrive.

Building A Formal Rose Garden Part 1 (1)
Building A Formal Rose Garden Part 1 (2)

2. Start Your Layout: The first and foremost thing you need to get is a small stake and string. Armed with a little spray paint and a hammer, mark the middle of your area and take the string 18 inches out. Tie one end of the string to a marker in the very middle of the area you plan to use. Tie the other end to the small stake making sure you have kept 18 inches between the two. Move the stake around the center marker spray painting has you go to make your first circle. Take the string out 6 ½ feet now and repeat, then at 9 ½ feet, 14 ½ feet, 17 ½ feet, 22 ½ feet, and 25 ½ feet. This is the first step to your new garden! You will notice that some of the circles are narrower and some are wider. The narrower ones are for planting and the wider ones will be your paths.

3. Pathways: The basic pathways that wind around the flower beds are done -- but how are you going to reach them? You want to take some of your space and make strait paths that will radiate out from the center of the garden and take you to the outside edge. You want to find the best spot to enter your new garden and, from that spot, make a strait line through the whole garden. Then cross this line back the other way to form an “x” shape over the whole garden. Using a measuring tape, make a mark 2 1/4 feet on each side of the lines. These will be the foot paths you will travel to move through the space. Making all your paths smaller than five feet will be tempting but you will regret this later. For our purposes, we will be building our garden here with grass pathways. You can use all sorts of things for your pathways but I prefer grass.

Building A Formal Rose Garden Part 1 (3)
Building A Formal Rose Garden Part 1 (4)

4. The Big Dig: Alright---so after all this work it is time to start digging. This is the fun part, at least for the first 30 or so shovels full. Then comes the tiring part. You need to dig out the middle circle and then every other circle shown in green in our diagram. Dig at least 6 inches deep, maybe more if you have poor soil. Really work and get rid of the soil you dig out. I love to add this soil, once pulled free of weeds, to my compost pile if I have the room.

5. Add Ons: Have your soil tested well before you do anything else. Once you get that information back, really spend some money on your soil. Add bone meal and compost filled to at least 2 to 3 inches above the path ways. Double and triple dig everything into the soil, then dig it again. This will be the foundation of your new garden. Once you think you have it perfect, go get it tested again. Spending time here will pay high dividends later giving you years of bountiful flowers.

Building A Formal Rose Garden Part 1 (5)
Building A Formal Rose Garden Part 1 (6)

6.Hardscape: Now is the time to start looking for hardscape. You need to really think about what you want in the center of the garden. In the garden we are working on here, the center will have a fountain. I would also add arbors over each of the entries to the garden. The four arbors and the fountain will be stunning when you get them all in place. Spend some time and get pieces that you really want to have in your garden. These will be with you for a long, long time so get what you love --- or save a little while until you can

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Read articles about: Evergreen Trees And Shrubs, Garden Design And Landscaping, Roses, Soil And Composting

About Mitch Fitzgerald

About Mitch Fitzgerald

I am a pentecostal preacher, gardener,husband, and a father. I love natives, daylilies, iris, and roses. I love teaching others, be they children or adults, about the garden and plants.

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As an avid gardener and horticulture enthusiast with years of hands-on experience, I can attest to the transformative power of a well-designed rose garden. Mitch Fitzgerald's article, "Building A Formal Rose Garden Part 1," provides valuable insights into creating a stunning and enduring garden space. Let's delve into the key concepts and steps outlined in the article:

  1. Space Selection and Sunlight Requirements:

    • Mitch emphasizes the importance of choosing an adequate space for the rose garden, recommending a minimum width of 48 feet for a formal look.
    • Full sun exposure is crucial for the health and vitality of roses, reinforcing the need for careful site selection.
  2. Layout and Circle Garden Design:

    • The author guides readers through the initial steps of creating a circular garden layout. This involves using a small stake, string, spray paint, and a hammer to mark circles of varying widths.
    • The wider circles serve as paths, while the narrower ones are designated for planting beds, contributing to an aesthetically pleasing and functional design.
  3. Pathway Design:

    • Mitch introduces the idea of straight paths radiating from the center of the garden, forming an "x" shape. These pathways provide access and enhance the overall structure.
    • The author recommends making pathways at least 2 1/4 feet wide to facilitate movement throughout the garden.
  4. The Big Dig – Soil Preparation:

    • The article emphasizes the importance of soil testing before any construction begins. Soil quality is paramount for the success of the rose garden.
    • Readers are instructed to dig out the middle and alternate circles, reaching a depth of at least 6 inches, and to remove excess soil. The excavated soil can be repurposed for composting.
  5. Soil Enhancement and Amendments:

    • Mitch underscores the significance of investing in soil quality, suggesting the addition of bone meal and compost to enrich the soil.
    • Double and triple digging these amendments into the soil creates a solid foundation for the garden. The author advocates for periodic soil testing to ensure optimal conditions.
  6. Hardscape Elements:

    • The final step involves selecting and incorporating hardscape elements. In the discussed garden, a central fountain and arbors at each entry point are suggested.
    • Mitch encourages readers to choose hardscape elements that resonate with their preferences, as these features will define the garden for years to come.

By following these meticulously outlined steps, gardeners can create a formal rose garden that combines beauty with functionality. Mitch Fitzgerald's expertise shines through, providing readers with a comprehensive guide to turn their garden dreams into reality.

Building A Formal Rose Garden Part 1 (2024)
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